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Russia, Ukraine foreign ministers meet

Ukrainians cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) -- The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine have begun meeting at a Turkish Mediterranean resort for the first high-level talks between the two countries since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

    The meeting between Russia's Sergey Lavrov and Dmotry Kuleba of Ukraine is taking place on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum near the city of Antalya on Thursday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is also participating in the meeting.

    Cavusoglu has said the aim of the meeting is to pave the way for a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents that would be facilitated by Turkey's president. Kuleba has also said that he would propose direct talks between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents when he meets Lavrov.

    NATO-member Turkey, which has cultivated close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, is trying to balance relations with both nations. It has positioned itself as a neutral party, seeking to facilitate negotiations between the warring sides.

    Turkey has criticized Russia's military actions in Ukraine as "unlawful" and "unacceptable" but it has also said Ankara would not give up on either Russia or Ukraine.

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    BERLIN -- The head of the U.N. nuclear agency says he's en route to Turkey for talks on ensuring the safety of Ukraine's nuclear facilities.

    Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was invited to Antalya, Turkey by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Also in Antalya on Thursday, the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are scheduled to hold talks on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum.

    Grossi didn't give details of his own planned meetings in a tweet that showed him sitting on a plane.

    The IAEA chief has been pressing for an agreement with Ukraine and Russia on the safety of Ukraine's nuclear power plants.

    A growing list of concerns includes a power cut at the decommissioned Chernobyl plant as well as limited communications between Ukraine's nuclear regulator and both Chernobyl and the Zaporizhzhia power plant, which Russian forces seized last week.

    In addition, the IAEA says it has lost direct transmission of data from systems installed to monitor nuclear material at both Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia. It says the reasons for the disruption aren't immediately clear.

    Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors, eight of which were operating as of Wednesday.

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    STOCKHOLM -- The Swedish government said Thursday it suggests that the country, which is not a member of NATO, should boost its military spending to 2% of gross domestic product by 2025.

    "Between 2014 and 2025, expenditure on defense will have increased by 85%," Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said. "Sweden's defense capability must be greatly strengthened."

    The move follows Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has profoundly changed Europe's security outlook, including for Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden, where support for joining NATO has surged to record levels.

    The Social Democratic-led government's proposal is likely to get support in the 349-seat Riksdag.

    Andersson said that "more young people need to prepare in the long run to do military service and contribute to the military defense."

    In 2017, Sweden instituted a military draft for both men and women because of a deteriorating security environment in Europe and around Sweden. Seven years earlier, Sweden had abolished compulsory military service for men because there were enough volunteers to meet its military needs. It has never had a military draft for women.

    On Sunday, neighboring Scandinavian country Denmark, which is member of NATO, said it would also boost military spending to meet the NATO target of 2% of gross domestic product by 2033.

    The 27-member Western military alliance has a target that its members spend 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

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    ANTALYA, Turkey -- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says that a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Turkey on Thursday aims pave the way for a meeting between the leaders of the two countries.

    Russia's Sergey Lavrov and Dmotry Kuleba of Ukraine are scheduled to hold talks on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum near the Turkish Mediterranean city of Antalya. It would be the first high-level meeting between Moscow and Kyiv since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Cavusoglu said he would also participate in the meeting.

    "Our main goal is to bring the three leaders together," Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper quoted Cavusoglu as saying, in reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

    NATO-member Turkey, which has cultivated close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, is trying to balance relations with both nations. It has positioned itself as a neutral party, seeking to facilitate negotiations between the warring sides.

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    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation that would ban Russian oil imports to the United States, an effort to put into law the restrictions announced by President Joe Biden in response to the escalating war in Ukraine.

    Going further than Biden's import ban on Russian oil, the bill making its way through Congress would also encourage a review of Russia's status in the World Trade Organization and signal U.S. support for sanctions on Russian officials over human rights violations, as the U.S. works to economically isolate the regime.

    Lawmakers in both parties have been eager to act, willing to risk higher gas prices at home in order to support Ukraine with a show of U.S. bipartisanship. The legislation was approved Wednesday, 414-17, and now goes to the Senate.

    Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who helped draft the bill, acknowledged it may cost more to fill up tanks at home to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin's tanks abroad.

    "It is one way to demonstrate our solidarity," Doggett said during the debate.

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    TOKYO -- Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony is suspending all shipments of its PlayStation video game consoles as well as game software to Russia because of the war in Ukraine.

    Launch of "Gran Turismo 7," a popular racing car game, is being suspended, and the PlayStation store in Russia will close, Sony Interactive Entertainment said in a statement Thursday.

    The company "joins the global community in calling for peace in Ukraine," it said.

    Sony, which has movies and music businesses, earlier said it's halted theatrical releases of its movies in Russia. Sony Group Corp. has also announced $2 million in humanitarian aid to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the international aid group Save the Children to help war victims.

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    TOKYO -- Japanese machinery and technology company Hitachi Group is suspending exports to Russia and has temporarily stopped manufacturing there.

    Hitachi said Thursday products and services related to electric power equipment "indispensable to the daily lives of people" will continue. Operations in Ukraine have resumed by moving employees and families to safer areas, it said.

    "Hitachi Group considers the safety and health of all employees and their families as its top priority. In Ukraine, the company is engaged in various activities to realize this goal and hopes that peace will return as soon as possible," it said.

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    IRPIN, Ukraine -- Hundreds of Ukrainians living in towns occupied by Russian troops on the outskirts of Kyiv fled Wednesday.

    Streams of cars -- some fixed with white flags -- filed down the road, joined by lines of yellow buses marked with red crosses.

    The Interior Ministry said about 700 people were evacuated from Vorzel and Irpin. People from three other Kyiv suburbs were unable to leave. Some who managed to get out said they hadn't eaten in days.

    "I forgot when I ate last," said an Irpin resident who gave only her first name, Olena. "I'm so scared. I need to keep walking."

    Iuliia Bushinska, a Vorzel resident, said: "Occupiers came to our house and they were ready to shoot us."

    "They took away our house, our car, they took away our documents. So we need to start our life from the beginning. We survived things that I never experienced in my life," Bushinska said.

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    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government publicly warned that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, after Russia, without evidence, accused Ukraine of having chemical weapons labs.

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Russia's claim "preposterous" and said it could be part of an attempt by Russia to lay the groundwork for using such weapons of mass destruction against Ukraine itself.

    "This is all an obvious ploy by Russia to try to try to justify its further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine," said Psaki.

    "Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them."

    Russia has used chemical weapons before in carrying out assassination attempts against Putin enemies like Alexey Navalny and former spy Sergei Skripal. It also supports the Assad government in Syria which has used chemical weapons against its people in a decade-long civil war.

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    LVIV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the West to impose even tougher sanctions on Russia after the airstrike on the maternity hospital in Mariupol.

    "A genocide of Ukrainians is taking place," Zelenskyy said Wednesday in his daily late evening video address to the nation. Wearing his now traditional wartime army green, he said the West should strengthen the sanctions so Russia "no longer has any possibility to continue this genocide."

    He said 17 people were injured in the attack, including pregnant women.

    Mariupol has been blockaded by Russian troops for nine days. City officials said Wednesday that about 1,200 residents have been killed.

    Zelenskyy again called on Western leaders to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something NATO members have refused to do for fear of provoking a wider war with Russia. Short of that, Zelenskyy called for the delivery of more fighter jets to Ukraine, a proposal the Pentagon rejected on Wednesday.

    Zelenskyy said about 35,000 civilians have used humanitarian corridors to flee to western Ukraine to escape the fighting.

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